Youth Overuse Injuries Overview

Participating in sports boosts healthy behaviors and promotes a healthy lifestyle. Too much activity, however, puts children at risk for injuries. There has been a significant increase in the number of youth overuse injuries, with most of these injuries typically occurring due to sports participation. The estimated prevalence of overuse injuries ranges from 45.9 percent to 54 percent.

With sport specialization taking place at a much younger age, an increase in repetitive stresses cause micro trauma to the bones, muscles, joints, and tendons. Overuse injuries can be characterized by four different types of pain:

  • Pain after activity
  • Pain during activity without limiting performance
  • Pain during activity restricting performance
  • Unrelenting pain even at rest.

By modifying the youth athlete’s activity to include different sports activities that focus on different body functions, as well as providing ample breaks, overuse injuries can be prevented, and overall physical fitness can be gained/maintained. If you notice your youth athlete is experiencing personality changes, fatigue, lack of interest, chronic pains, or even generally unenthused they are most likely suffering from burnout/overtraining.

The most common types of youth overuse injuries are outlined in the following patient education guide:

Sever’s Disease Osgood-Schlatter Disease Little Leaguer’s Elbow Jumper’s Knee Stress Fractures/Reactions
Cause of heel pain in children, typically present during a growth spurt. It is an inflammation of the growth plate at the heel, which increases with running, jumping, and activity. This results from repetitive stresses that cause pain and swelling of the growth plate. Cause of knee pain on the front. It is an inflammation of the growth plate at the top of the tibia/shinbone called the tibial tubercle. The patellar tendon attaches here at the bone. This inflammation is also caused by repetitive stresses such as running and jumping, causing pain. Cause of pain typically on the inside of the elbow joint. This condition is often seen with repetitive overhand throwing and pitching. The repetitive stress at the growth plates, ligaments, and cartilage of the elbow become inflamed. Continuation of overhead throwing will result in more inflammation and pain. Cause of knee pain also on the front, but on the lower aspect of the kneecap/patella. Repetitive use of the quadriceps muscles stresses the tendon where it attaches at the bottom of the kneecap. This leads to inflammation and a tendonitis of the patellar tendon. Overuse stress fractures and reactions are due to repetitive stresses placed on the bones or growth plates. The muscles that attach at these areas overload the bones. Too much activity and stress will damage the bone, causing it to crack or damage the growth plate and cause it to widen. All of these stress injuries can lead to decreased growth and possible deformities.


Written by Dr. Mark W. Galland, Orthoepaedic Specialists of North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC

Show All